WARNING: Do not apply for the American Express Green Card without seeing this review. AmEx is great but for 2016 their Green Card isn’t the best choice.
Why a charge card?
Unlike a credit card, the balance on a charge card is paid in full each month… so you don’t have to worry about interest rate hikes and other non-sense. Many like the fact that since the entire balance will be due, it helps them resist the temptation of overspending. However even the most fiscally responsible prefer them too, since charge cards offer unique benefits you can’t always get with a credit card. But whatever your motive, the AmEx Green Card is a bad choice when you compare it to the Gold or the Premier Rewards Gold Card. This holds true even if it’s your first AmEx, because I hear from ton’s of first timers who get approved for the Gold, too.
2016 American Express Green Card Review
In the US, American Express is the only major issuer which currently offers charge cards. Their first card was launched in 1958, and this was eventually named the American Express Green Card. In ’66 they issued the Gold Card and in ’84 the Platinum Card. Let’s take a look at what the Green does and doesn’t offer…
Annual Fee: $95.00, note that this is usually NOT waived for the first year.
Rewards: The card participates in the Membership Rewards program, which is exclusive to AmEx charge cards:
- 1x points on regular spending
- 2x on travel booked through the AmEx travel website
The Membership Rewards program has a lot of different redemption options but by far the most enticing is the ability to convert your points to airline frequent flyer miles.
Sure, some other credit cards allow you to do this with one or two airlines, but only American Express has over 20 airlines and hotels in their program (by far the biggest selection). But the most impressive part is that you almost always get 1 mile per point when you convert. You get this with all AmEx charge cards, not just the Green Card.
Important Note: Many other cards on the the market today advertise “miles” but all they are really giving you is cash back to spend on travel, because each mile only equals $0.01 worth of travel. However with AmEx you are actually converting your points to real miles on airline frequent flyer programs such as Delta, JetBlue, British Airways, Frontier, Virgin Atlantic, AirTran and others. Obviously this is a much better deal, since the dollar value you get through those frequent flyer programs can sometimes be as high as two or three cents per mile (for example instead of paying $500 cash for a roundtrip ticket, you may be able to get it for just 25,000 miles through the airline’s mile program. That’s $0.02 per mile which is double the value).
This card does offer some great benefits. So it’s not that the benefits are lacking, rather it’s just that some of AmEx’s other charge cards give you way more for your money (which we will discuss in a moment). First, let’s take a look at some of the American Express Green Card benefits:
Purchase Protection Benefit: We all know what it’s like to buy something and then accidentally break it soon after. What this free benefit does is protect all eligible purchases made with the American Express Green Card for the first ninety days. During that time, if these item(s) are stolen or accidentally damaged, AmEx will repair or reimburse them for you, up to a thousand dollars per claim.
Extended Warranty Benefit: This is an extremely useful benefit which can also save you some money from having to buy extended warranties out-of-pocket. Instead, any eligible purchase made with the AmEx Green Card that has an original U.S. manufacturers warranty will be doubled by up to one extra year (during that second year AmEx will cover your losses directly). So let’s say you bought a new monitor that had a 1 year warranty, but it went bad after 1.5 years. Since American Express automatically extends that warranty 1 year, you would simply call them up to take care of it for free.
Travel Benefits:There are a couple convenient travel benefits included. The first one is their emergency assistance hotline; wherever you are in the world, they can arrange for legal, medical, or financial help when away from home. The second benefit is travel accident insurance, which covers the cardmember if accidental death or dismemberment happens while traveling on a plane, ship, train, or bus (the ticket will need to have been purchased with the card to qualify).
So why is the Green Card a bad deal?
Simply put, when you do an apples to apples comparison of the AmEx Green vs. Gold, the Green just doesn’t make sense…
Reason #1: The $95 annual fee is not much less than the $125 basic Gold Card, but the latter will give you significantly better benefits.
Reason #2: When you apply for an AmEx Green Card you typically do not get any bonus points.
Reason #3: If the reason you were interested in the Green is because you have a limited credit history and want an AmEx with entry-level credit requirements, you will be happy to learn that according to reviews from customers, both the Green and basic Gold sound to be comparable in their approval.
So the choice is up to you… pay $95 for the Green and get no promotional bonus, fewer benefits, and lower rewards -OR- go with one of the Gold versions which will give you a lot more bang for your buck: